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City to Host Public Forum on Relocation of the Fredericksburg Visitor Center

By Susan Larson.

City officials will hold a public forum at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, to discuss the planned move of the Fredericksburg Visitor Center and the Fredericksburg Economic Development and Tourism offices. The meeting will be held on the the third floor of the Executive Plaza building at 601 Caroline St.

Two key factors are driving the discussion regarding the potential move of the Visitor Center, according to Bill Freehling, director of Economic Development and Tourism (EDT).

“The Novak and Garner reports have suggested that the EDT department be relocated to a more professional setting than its current location on the second and third floors of the Visitor Center building at 706 Caroline Street,” Freehling said.

If EDT relocates and the Visitor Center remains at 706 Caroline St., the building would be less than one-third occupied. “The city or its Economic Development Authority could lease the second and third floors to a third party, but could also consider an outright sale,” Freehling said.

City Manager Tim Baroody told City Council during a November 22 work session the city could reduce operations expenses by about $40,000 a year by selling or leasing the building.

Secondly, the city is faced with empty office space downtown.

“The city has invested about $50 million in the past several years on the courthouse and Original Walker Grant (OWG) projects,” Freehling said. When the OWG project is completed next fall, the school system administrative team will move out of the first and fourth floors of the Executive Plaza, as well as the Wallace Library building within the Renwick complex, and into the renovated OWG space. This will leave the entire Renwick complex and two floors of Executive Plaza empty.

“The city wishes to be good stewards of taxpayer resources, and is hence considering the possibility of disposing of what soon might be deemed surplus properties.”

The EDT could move to Executive Plaza. Three locations are currently in top consideration for the Visitor Center. They are:

– The Town Hall building at 907 Princess Anne St., which is home to the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center (FAMCC). The Visitor Center could co-locate with the FAMCC.

– The former Renwick courthouse complex at 815 Princess Anne St.

– The first floor of Executive Plaza at 601 Caroline St.

The current location of the Visitor Center includes public bathrooms — accessible from outside the building — a 14-space parking lot, and street access out front for Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg and Olde Towne Carriages.

The owners of those companies expressed concern about moving the Visitor Center, saying they rely on foot traffic from the current location. Freehling said the city is committed to the businesses’ success.

Freehling said no final decisions have been made. “The City of Fredericksburg is committed to running a top-notch Visitor Center downtown, but we’re evaluating options on location,” he said. “These options and more will be discussed at the January 4 forum,” Freehling said. “Everyone is encouraged to attend, as community input is desired.”

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